One of my very favorite books is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. I happen to love the movie too. For me, it’s one of the greatest stories about the impact mothers have on their children’s lives. In this particular case, the main character’s mother leaves her behind with a very abusive father, and although she returns, she dies that same day, leaving little Lily Owens completely uncertain as to whether her mother ever really loved her. Was she returning for just her things that day, or was she returning for Lily too? That’s the main question of the story. To grow up without the certainty of a mother’s love makes a child feel unloveable, and that is the exact struggle that Lily is trying so hard to work through.
I’ve been thinking so much of my own mother lately. She loved me, and I was never uncertain of that. I knew it everyday of my life, and I still know it now, even though she’s been gone for almost seven years. What I wasn’t always sure of was whether or not I had her approval, and that led me to constantly be seeking it. Most of my adult decisions were made with my mother in mind, and she is still a powerful force in my life. She and I were from different generations, so she had strong opinions on what it meant to be a girl, a woman, a wife, and a mother, roles that were rapidly changing in the 1960s and 70s. She never had difficulty expressing her point of view, even when I was very young, so I had a strong sense of what she thought was right and what she thought was wrong. One such difference of opinion caused me to make a crucial decision very early on that impacted me greatly, and I often wondered if she ever realized it. I learned just last week that she did indeed know, and it was the greatest gift the universe could give me. I spent a lifetime being fearful of not having my mother’s approval and acceptance, only to find out that I now have it when I need it the most. The peace that it has brought me to know that has been immeasurable.
Lily Owens never really knew her mother because she grew up without her. I had mine for 49 years, and yet I can still relate to what Lily’s character feels because there is so much that I never knew about my mother. Again, I believe this to be a generational thing. Women of her era did not necessarily share the deepest parts of themselves with their children, so I’m not able to tell you what her greatest fears, hopes, dreams, or desires really were. This makes me incredibly sad. With my own children, I attempted to do something completely different. I wanted them to know me for who I really was, so I allowed myself to be seen. And I allowed myself to be known, even the parts of me that weren’t quite perfect, and those that were nowhere close. I believed in as much transparency as possible, because as I stood there holding my mother’s hand in the moment when she died, there were so many questions that I still wanted to ask, but would never get the chance to again. I mourned the loss of that opportunity almost as much as I mourned the loss of her physical and emotional presence. I never wanted that for my children. On the day that I leave them, I want them to be able to say that they knew me, not only for everything I was for them, but also for all the things I was for myself. It’s this second piece that we tend to want to hide as mothers, but I’ve always believed, and still do believe, that it’s equally vital. If I could, I would take my mother’s hand again and I would ask her the questions that I need answers to about her, and I would tell her all that I want her to know about me. And in that moment, our relationship as mother and daughter would not be compromised by honesty, but rather it would be strengthened by it, because we would know each other even more profoundly, as people who hope, and fear, and dream, and love.
The queen bee is the most important element of any hive; she is, in so many ways, like a mother to all the other bees. Despite her role, she is a shy, and hesitant creature at heart, and one that doesn’t always feel like she’s up to the task of mothering so many other bees. Yet she rises to it, and should she disappear, the hive falls apart without her energy and guidance. I decided to make today’s cocktail a riff on a Bee’s Knees in celebration of the importance our mothers will always have in our lives. My variation is a simple one: I substituted barrel finished gin for regular to create more weight and seriousness, and I added just a bit of Suze to the lemon and honey combination for intensity and just a trace of bitterness. I finished the drink off with some DRAM citrus medica bitters to tie together the sweet and the bitter. There is much to be gained in truly knowing someone, but there are moments when that knowledge is bittersweet, especially between adult children and their mothers. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday.
2 oz Bluecoat Barrel Finished gin
¼ oz Suze
1 oz lemon juice
¾ oz honey syrup
1 dash DRAM Apothecary Citrus Medica bitters
Shake everything over ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon or lavender, in any form you’d like. Enjoy!